Five unnamed mothers in New York City filed a lawsuit Monday, April 15, seeking to block the city’s mandatory vaccination order in areas hit by a massive measles outbreak that has raged since last October.
City health officials announced the order earlier this month as they declared a public health emergency over the outbreak, which has sickened 329 people so far—mostly children. According to the city’s order, all unvaccinated people in affected ZIP codes must receive the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, prove immunity, or have a valid medical exemption. Violators could face a fine of $1,000.
In the lawsuit, the mothers claim that the outbreak does not constitute a dangerous epidemic (though the virus can cause severe complications and even death) and that the city’s orders are “arbitrary and capricious.” Moreover, they allege that the MMR vaccine has significant safety concerns (this is false; side effects beyond mild, temporary discomfort are exceedingly rare) and that the order violates their religious freedom.